There are some things that neither time nor change of circumstance nor even debilitating disease can stop. One of those is the will of a dancer to perform a work she cherishes.
Lucy Bowen McCauley was a member of Eric Hampton Dance when Hampton created a work called "Beethoven Bits" in 1993. It was a playful, lighthearted piece for three dancers -- McCauley, local dancer Natalie Moffet Smith and Hampton himself -- accompanied by excerpts from Beethoven's "Bagatelles," Opus 126. The work was a great success, performed on many occasions, until Hampton began suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease and ceased working. He is now virtually paralyzed and living in a nursing home.
McCauley, meanwhile, went on to found her own dance company, Bowen McCauley Dance. But she never forgot the man who so inspired her with his fluid, highly musical movement style or the works of his that she especially loved. This weekend her group performs two dances by McCauley, a work by former Washington Ballet member Peter Stark -- and Hampton's "Beethoven's Bits."
Acquiring the rights to the work completes an important circle for McCauley, since the creation of "Beethoven's Bits" represents a pivotal period in her own artistic development.
"It was truly my favorite time in rehearsal with Eric," she says. "That piece seemed to come out of him faster than the others. . . . It was really great for me because I was trying to cross the line into choreographing, trying to figure out what makes [a dance] good."
Instead of taking on her original role, McCauley will be performing Hampton's solo. Given Hampton's restricted physical condition, learning the role became a complicated process of studying videotapes and laboriously gleaning insight from the choreographer himself. McCauley visited him at the Washington Home, where, with the help of Hampton's close friend Harriet Williams, she was able to get his thoughts on her interpretation.
"He speaks with his eyes," says McCauley, describing a method by which Hampton indicates "yes" by blinking and can spell out further comments by looking at letters on an alphabet board. It was a painstakingly slow process. McCauley would dance some of the steps on the hard linoleum floor of the home's common area and await Hampton's response.
If he didn't like what he saw, she says, "he'd kind of grimace and spell out something like, `More plie.' "
By dint of hard work and devotion -- on both sides -- rehearsals proceeded. Now plans have been made for Hampton to attend McCauley's performance. "I'm thrilled," she says. "I really want him to be there."
BOWEN McCAULEY DANCE -- Saturday at 7:30 at Gunston Theater I, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington. Call 703/524-4641.